Category Archives: Child Care

Trust and Child Care

BabysitterI have trust issues.  I admit it.  Especially with anyone who is going to be left alone with my child.

In fact, my son is now 18 months old, and only three people have ever been left alone with him in all that time: myself, my hubby, and the nanny.  And those who know me make fun of the extensive (okay, semi-paranoid) background screening process that I subjected the nanny to prior to hiring.

But it only takes one story like this to justify my fears.  Granted, this isn’t the worst story out there, but it happened to someone close to me.  And therefore hits home.

This friend of mine went back to work about 8 weeks after her daughter was born.  She had searched and asked around for a good daycare provider, and found one that she liked.  This woman ran an in-home daycare, was very kind, and seemed wonderful with the kids.  She was also accredited.  My friend interviewed her and decided she was the right fit for their family.

All went wonderfully.  Her daughter adapted well, and the daycare provider was in constant touch with my friend via phone and text.  There was no doubt that her daughter was cared for and happy.  Everyone settled into a routine.

Fast forward 2 years.  The daycare provider is now like family.  She and my friend share confidences, laughs, and are even Facebook friends.  The daycare provider shares her marital troubles.  She and her husband are divorcing.  It is a rough time and my friend is a shoulder to cry on.

As the sadness turns to defiance, my friend begins noticing that the daycare provider has begun spending many late nights out with friends, clubbing and drinking.  She reads Facebook snippets posted at 4am from greasy diners after nights of partying… Two hours before she is due to drop off her daughter.  She blows it off.  The woman is going through a divorce, after all.  She is in a rough place.  She is blowing off steam.

The daycare provider begins looking increasingly disheveled as my friend drops off her 2-year-old daughter.  Hungover and unshowered, with dark circles under her eyes.  My friend talks to her.  The daycare provider knows – she needs to get it together.  She is just having a tough time.  It will work out.

One morning upon my friend’s arrival, the daycare provider instructs her to drop her daughter off with the neighbor instead.  My friend, stunned, asks what’s going on.  The daycare provider says she is hungover and not feeling well, and that it is fine because she has already talked to the neighbor who has agreed to watch her daughter.  My friend says, firmly, that she will not drop her daughter off with anybody else – especially someone she doesn’t know.  She tells the daycare provider that she pays her and her alone to watch her daughter.  The daycare provider concedes.  But it doesn’t leave my friend with a great sense of confidence that her daughter is being well taken care of while she is at work for the day.  First Red Flag.

My friend shares her concerns with me.  I agree that she has legitimate reasons to be concerned.  We talk about her finding a new daycare provider.  She will, once she gets a chance.

The daycare provider’s drunken nights continue.  She continues to confide in my friend about her relationship woes.  Lines are blurring.  My friend lets her know that she has to pull it together – and the daycare provider agrees.

About a month later, my friend is let off work early.  She calls the daycare provider to let her know that she is on her way to pick up her daughter.  The daycare provider, surprised, advises that they are actually in the car and on their way to K-Mart.  My friend is shocked and angered that the daycare provider has driven her child without letting her know first, as was a term of their agreement.   Second Red Flag.

Since K-Mart is closer to where my friend is, they agree to meet in the parking lot.  My friend pulls in and waits.  A moment later, the daycare provider drives up.  My friend is appalled when she sees her daughter hop off of a simple booster in the backseat and run outside.  Her daughter is still at the age when a convertible carseat is necessary (preferably rear-facing).  She asks the daycare provider why her daughter was placed into a booster (not even sure that she was fully buckled in).  The daycare provider, sheepishly, says that she knows it is wrong and it won’t happen again.  They were in a bit of a rush.  Third Red Flag.

This time, my friend and I talk a lot further about the situation.  I implore her to find a new daycare provider immediately; there are too many red flags.  She agrees completely, and is looking into it.  She also shows up to the daycare provider’s home the following day to have a heart-to-heart.  They discuss the issues and my friend’s concerns, and the daycare provider takes full responsibility.  She is adamant that nothing like this will ever happen again.  She is just having such a tough time with the divorce – and she appreciates my friend’s support more than she will ever know.  She assures her that her daughter and her other charges remain her top priority.

It is now about one month later.  My friend receives a call at her job from the police department.

“We have your daughter,” they say, “We need you to come down here.”  Panicked, my friend asks what is going on??  “Your daughter is fine,” they reply, “Please just meet us here as soon as possible.”

My friend, shaking, runs off the job and speeds to the requested meeting location – a very busy intersection in a rundown commercial neighborhood.  She is flooded with relief when she pulls into the strip mall and sees her 2-year-old daughter safe with a police officer.

After showering her precious daughter with hugs and kisses, she finally hears what happened.

Shortly after my friend’s daughter was dropped off at the daycare, the daycare provider drove with her to a hair salon located in an unsavory part of town.  My friend recalls that before this time, the daycare provider had texted her to ask when she expected to be off work.  My friend replied, and the daycare provider said that was perfect.  No mention of a hair appointment.  No request to leave the home with her child.

Apparently while getting her hair done, the daycare provider lost track of my friend’s daughter.  The 2-year-old daughter wandered outside of the salon and began walking the extremely busy streets.  She continued to wander the streets, alone, for over 30 minutes.  During this entire time, the daycare provider never once noticed that she had gone missing.

A merchant at a store in a neighboring strip mall, however, did notice.  She saw the young girl walk by with no adult.  Several minutes later, she saw her pass by again.  Finally, when she saw her pass by a third time a half hour later still without an adult, she became concerned.  This girl was just a toddler!  No adult!  On a very busy street!  And not in the best part of town.

The merchant left the store and called to the child.  The child looked over and allowed the merchant to walk over to her.  The merchant asked where her parents were?  Was she lost?  The child didn’t respond.  The merchant picked up the child and began calling for a parent, a caregiver, anyone who was missing a child.  Thank goodness the merchant had only good intentions.

After several minutes went by with no response and no adult in sight, the merchant brought the child into her store and called the police.  The officer showed up a few minutes later.  Then and only then, prompted by the sound of police sirens, did the daycare provider in the salon finally notice that the child was missing.

And this was the Final Red Flag. 

My friend immediately removed her daughter from the daycare, and refused to listen to any more excuses from the daycare provider.  A few days after the incident, the daycare provider emailed my friend to express her sincerest apologies.  My friend responded that she could not accept her apology at this time.

My friend furthermore rearranged her work schedule so that she could send her daughter to an actual preschool instead of an in-home daycare.  To my knowledge, she has not taken any legal action nor filed any complaints against the daycare provider.

So what did I learn from this?  That the paranoid background check probably isn’t such a bad idea.  But that it also isn’t a guarantee of anything.  That as a parent, I need to continuously monitor what is going on with my child and his caregiver.  And listen to my intuition.  And take immediate action when I see a red flag (or even a yellow flag).  And that, even with all of that, there is never any way to know completely what is happening when I am not around.

Scary, but true, and I would rather live with constant monitoring and due diligence than merely trusting that everything is going along just fine.  I think I would rather live with my trust issues and being over-protective… Than not being protective enough.

And even then, I have to trust and pray that my caregiver takes her job as seriously as I hope she does.

Nanny Pay

PayWell, it’s that time of year.  In addition to the extra taxes being taken out of my pay, the tax bills for the nanny have started rolling in.

Along with the tax management/payroll company bills.

And it ain’t cheap.

Yes, you heard that right.  We pay our nanny “on the books” (unlike, it appears, 95% of other families in our neighborhood).  I just had a conversation with a friend yesterday who is hiring a nanny… Under the table to eliminate tax headaches and reduce costs.  And I get it.  I really do.

We’re trying to do the right thing.  Do it the legal way.  Allow for the nanny to become eligible for social security, disability, and unemployment.

But it’s thankless.  And expensive.  And time-intensive.

And now I understand all those other families, smug as they smile and shake their heads at us, who choose an easier way.

  • Nannies Prefer Under the Table Pay.  At least in this area.  I had a heck of a time finding, first of all, a nanny legal to work in the United States (interestingly, all the nannies recommended to us were not).  Then upon broaching the topic of paying “on the books,” I was faced with blank stares, frowns, and requests to gross up the salary so that the take-home rate would be comparable to the cash market rate.  Really??  Gross up??  I can only imagine how it would go over if I approached my boss and asked him to gross up my pay.  Fortunately for us, we finally found a few nannies who were open to the idea <gasp> of being paid legally – and ended up hiring one of those.
  • Nannies Compare Pay Rates.  Funny how different this industry is from my own.  It would extremely taboo for me to discuss my compensation with anyone, yet nannies appear to do it on a regular basis.  And, you guessed it, the comparison is done in cash-only rates.  So despite the fact that my nanny currently earns a salary complete with paid holidays, vacations, and days off whenever we choose to vacation, I get the distinct sense that she feels as if she is being under-compensated compared to her peers.  And in fact, she is.  Though her rate is actually higher than market, her take-home pay is lower – and that is what she is comparing.  We have had the conversation a few times now about the benefits she is receiving for legal pay (in terms of social security, unemployment, etc.) yet I don’t feel that is something that is motivating nor attractive to her.
  • Tax Process is Ridiculously Difficult.  I like to think I am a reasonably intelligent person.  Who can put in the time to do something right.  But in the case of nanny taxes, it took a very short period of time before I realized that I simply did not have the background nor inclination to handle them.  Every time I turn around there is a new tax form due!!  In California alone, I am receiving a pile of paperwork each quarter to complete and return.  I have heard stories of well-meaning taxpayers making one minor oversight or error, and it costing them thousands of dollars come audit time (vs. their under-the-table paying peers who are seemingly never found out).  Which brings me to my next point.
  • Nanny Tax/Payroll Company Must Be Hired.  Okay, not an absolute must, but almost.  Like I said, I couldn’t figure it out on my own.  So now here’s another expense – the cost of the tax company, a cost for payroll, a cost for each filing, etc, etc.  We use a wonderful company with outstanding service (Breedlove and Associates); they are the best out there and worth every penny.  But still, an added expense from which my smug under-the-table nanny paying friends are exempt.
  • Changes to Nanny Pay Can Raise Red Flags for IRS Audits.  Or so says my CPA.  After realizing that perhaps a blanket salary is not the best approach for our nanny (given a reduction in work hours and also realizing that I am not actually incenting her to work), we mentioned to our CPA that the expenditures will likely change for next year as we move to an hourly rate paid only for hours worked.  The CPA said that is fine, but changes to nanny pay (and ultimately the elimination of nanny pay once the nanny is no longer needed) can raise the red flag for an audit.  Wonderful.  So my thanks for paying legally and on the books?  A potential audit because we and the nanny agree to modify the pay structure.
  • Workers Compensation Insurance.  Required in certain states, including mine, when you hire a household employee (nanny).  The good news here is I would have purchased this regardless; I think everyone should protect themselves and the people in their homes in this way.  But – it is only required because we have opted to pay on the books.
  • Overtime is Required.  This is ultimately a good thing – it protects the nanny from being taken advantage of by families forcing her to work 50/60/70 hour weeks at the same hourly rate.  But – it is hard to compete at market rate with this requirement.  Example: market rate in this area is $15/hour cash (no overtime).  That’s $750/week for a 50 hour week.  For a family paying on the books, however, that translates to $825/week ($600 for $15 at 40 hours, plus an additional $225 for $22.50 overtime at 10 hours).  And the best part?  Even with the overtime, the nanny may still take home less net pay.  Luckily for us, our schedules are such that we rarely even reach 40 hours.  Let’s hope it stays that way.
  • Nanny Pay is AFTER Tax for Employer.  You heard that right.  While every other small business is able to deduct wages off the top, families don’t receive a dime in deductions.  We pay our nanny AFTER we have been taxed.  And then are taxed AGAIN for her.  A glaring issue that penalizes the smallest of small businesses – a working mother and father trying to raise a family.  Oh and the childcare credit?  Yeah, a grand total of up to $600 for the year.  Gee whiz.  Thanks.
  • Nanny Misconceptions.  Perhaps this is just our nanny, perhaps not.  But she has mentioned offhandedly a few times how she realizes that paying her legally is actually cheaper for us.  What??  I have, on a few occasions now, explained that it actually costs us quite a bit more.  She politely nods… But I still sense that she thinks it is financially beneficial for us to pay her this way.  And why wouldn’t she think that?  She sees everyone else being paid under the table, a method which is preferred by her, so she figures there MUST be some logical reason we want to pay her this other way.  And there is, right…?
  • Potential New Legislation Requires Formal Breaks and Lunches.  Fortunately this legislation has not passed yet, but it’s still on the docket.  If passed, it would require families to literally relieve the nanny for formal 15-minute breaks and a 1-hour lunch.  That would be all fine and good if, well, parents were available to provide that relief.  In which case, they probably wouldn’t need a nanny at all!  So what happens if this passes?  I think it encourages even more under-the-table and unregulated nanny employment vs. more compliance.  What parent is able to drive home at least three times a day, relieve the nanny for a break or lunch, and then drive back to work??  I’ll tell you – none.  So good luck with that legislation right there.
  • Fees for Compliance Increase Over Time.  I was recently on the phone with our nanny tax advisors, asking them how I would enact a change to our nanny’s pay structure.  As part of the conversation, I also asked what parents do if they have more children and then take maternity/paternity leaves from their jobs (e.g. eliminating the need for a nanny during that period of time).  I was told that typically these nannies are terminated and then, if needed and still available after the leaves are done, they are rehired.  The representative pointed out that one of the benefits of paying legally can come to fruition during this time of leave: the nanny could collect unemployment.  But, he pointed out, by collecting unemployment, it meant one of my something-or-other fees/taxes would increase – potentially up to an additional 9%.  9%!  I asked what would happen if the nanny didn’t file for unemployment during that time??  And he replied that in California, the rate will go up regardless in a few years (cannot remember offhand what it was – I want to say it was somewhere around the 3 year mark).  So my takeaway was, figure out an alternative childcare solution before that clock is up!

Oh and before you tell me that the nanny is an independent contractor who I can 1099, let me tell you that she is not.  Nannies have been clearly defined as W2 employees and must be treated and paid as such.  There is really no out.

So to those who also pay on the books, despite the challenges, I have a new respect for you.  And for those who pay off – well, I get it.

We’re going to continue doing it the “right” way but are pleading for tax changes to simplify and perhaps even incent the process.  Until that happens, I doubt that we will ever see majority compliance.

Babysitters

Everything is humming right along for us.  We are back into our grooves at work, I’ve been able to work out some flexibility with my job, and we’ve become comfortable with a wonderful nanny who loves our son almost as much as we do.  We’ve got this!

Until my nanny, horribly, experiences a death in the family and needs unplanned time off.  And it hits us: We have no backup plan.

Let me be clear in saying that this is absolutely our miss, nobody else’s.  Our nanny is everything we could ask for, and besides the logistics of child care during her short absence, we are hurt for her and the loss she has experienced.  Add to that the awkwardness of trying to negotiate time off via crazy work and business travel schedules, and it makes for some uncomfortable conversations that we as the parents could have avoided had we been more strategic in our thinking.

We knew, of course, that potentially one day she could call in sick.  Need a day off.  Have to leave early.  And we figured, well, we would just take the day off too.  Alternate between Mom and Dad.  So it is fair.

But it’s so much more than that.  We didn’t account for business trips (as was the issue during this recent occurrence), mandatory meetings, a recent string of unplanned days off for our own family emergencies; all of which make more unplanned time off extremely undesirable.

Fortunately, in this case, we were able to quickly work out a plan with my sister.  Although not ideal (she and her husband had to modify their own work schedules, and then she and her two kids were needing to leave their place at 5am to get to our place in time with traffic), it was actually the best option available.  I am thankful to them for helping out.

But it’s not realistic over the long term.  We need a better, more solid, backup plan.

So I’ve started looking at “Backup Nannies” (AKA “Babysitters”).  Ugh.  The term alone fills my head with thoughts of a precocious, gum-snapping, text-happy teenager who twirls her hair and invites her boyfriend over.  I’m not feeling it.  And I keep stalling.  We don’t need anyone NOW….  We worked out THIS situation and now we’re good….

But I know that we’re not.  As much as I dread it, I’m not so naive to think that we will never have another adults-only event to attend.  Or that we will never, dare I say, want to have another date.

But the Mommy Guilt is eating me up.  It took me months to become comfortable with our nanny; months before I would even leave her alone with my son.  And now we all love her and she is almost like part of the family.  But to introduce yet another stranger into my son’s life?

And the process itself… It’s exhausting.  The job posting, vetting, interviewing, background checks, vaccination requirements, CPR/First Aid certification classes, job offer, negotiation, etc, etc, etc.  All this before I even begin the arduous process of simply spending a lot of time with the individual before I leave that person alone with my son.  Some say overkill but, for me, it’s simply what the process is.  And it’s a lot.

So what do people in these situations do?  Outside of my sister, who doesn’t live particularly close to me and has child care challenges of her own, we don’t have any local family to help out.  Being a new older mom, many of my friends are childless and certainly not interested in watching someone else’s kids.  Those who do have kids have already figured out their own child care arrangements.  And to complicate matters, I am SUPER picky when it comes to child care providers.

My nanny has tried to help.  She has given me, so far, four recommendations.  The first is a nanny who watches a local infant girl during the week (so who would be available for evenings and weekends).  I was and still am interested in this person, but as time has gone on, my nanny’s comments on her have cooled a bit… So I’ve become a bit more tentative.

The second is a family friend of my nanny’s who attends her church.  I called and left a message.  No call back.  Nanny asked her about it later – she said her phone “wasn’t working” and to please provide my number.  Nanny gave her my number.  The potential caregiver never called nor mentioned it again.

The third is someone who watches a local toddler one day a week.  My nanny hasn’t known her very long, but feels that she is really good with this toddler when she sees them.  I call and leave her a message.  No call back.  A week later, she texts my nanny and says she accidentally deleted my message and needs my number.  Nanny provides.  She calls me a few days later and leaves a message.  I call her back and leave a message.  Ball now in her court, although I must say that I am a bit concerned at the difficulty of getting in touch with her.

The fourth is a home-nurse who cared for my nanny’s grandmother.  Nanny doesn’t even know if she is looking, just imagines that she might be since she recently lost her job.  I am not so sure about this one – seems like a bit of a stretch.

So I have now started bugging my friends for recommendations.  A few are checking with their respective churches.  A few don’t have anyone besides family members.  And a few recommend some online sources.

So far, not a whole lot.  And I must admit that my heart’s not in it.  It triggers feelings of guilt beyond just what I felt when I originally left my son with the nanny.  So now – he will have a nanny AND a backup nanny??  When will he ever be with his parents??

My husband thinks I’m overreacting.  He cites the hours each evening and all weekend that we spend together as a family.  He mentions all the days I work from home, and my ability to wake him up, see him, spend breaks with him, take him to Gymboree.  Maybe he’s right.  But I’m so worried that my son’s memories will simply not include us.  That most of his memories will instead center around paid caretakers.  And it’s heartbreaking.

So Moms, what do you do?  I do, for the record, have a job posting out on Care, but am not receiving too much other than very young women looking for after school work.  I suppose the quality of caretaker response is a bit different when you can’t guarantee a full time job or even a minimum number of hours.  But there’s simply got to be a better way.

Daycare vs. SAHM vs. Nanny

Before I had my baby, I had everything all figured out.  I was going to take my maternity leave and then head back to work.  I interviewed caregivers, and picked out a wonderful licensed in-home daycare close to my home.   I wrote up a list of emergency contacts and brief instructions.  I prided myself on having been so organized as to having completed everything on time.

And then I had my son.  And everything changed.

Now – I am a planner by nature.  I don’t make too many big decisions in my life without well thought out (compulsive?) planning.  So when I found out I was pregnant, I immediately armed myself with spreadsheets for budget, daycare selection, and necessary home renovations.  I pulled up and edited a list of interview questions for daycare providers.

I always knew from the beginning that we would go the daycare route.  It was less expensive…  not cheap by any means, but not ridiculously expensive like some other options out there.  My baby would have the chance to socialize.  My sister’s kids were attending daycare.  My friend’s kids were attending daycare.  It’s what we knew.

I also knew intuitively that I didn’t want a “corporate” daycare.  I wanted my child to be able to form a relationship with just a couple of care providers, and I didn’t want the corporate environment at such a young age.  So I began researching in-home daycares.

I soon learned about state licensing requirements, so promptly printed out a list of all local licensed in-home daycare facilities from California’s Child Care Licensing Website.    Then I began simply calling down the list, asking about availability and hours.  I came up with about 7 who had both availability and offered the hours we were looking for (pretty long hours of about 11 per day).  Of those, I picked the top 5 I would interview.

The interviews were a good exercise in better learning what to look for.  I could immediately tell the ones who were in it for a paycheck, and they were scratched off the list.  There were 3 remaining that I really liked and who seemed to really love the kids, so I called the state to ask about previous audits and if any of them had ever received any complaints (none of them had). 

Now we just had to decide.  Option A we really liked – she had a nursing background and a real genuine interest and love for children – BUT she was a bit out of the way and talked too much.  Yes, talked way too much – we were there 3 hours when the interview was over in about 45 minutes.  And we quickly began calculating in our heads how much time would be wasted after work when picking up the baby and having to endure hours of conversation.  So she was put at the bottom of the list.

Option B also had a genuine love for children – and was meticulous about cooking fresh and healthy and homemade meals.  She reminded me of one of my best friends, which was comforting.  But she was also located out of the way, even more so than Option A.  And over time, she began texting and emailing and calling a bit too much.  It almost gave off an air of desparation which, valid or not, worried me that something might not be right since she was pushing so hard for the business.

Option C had a lot of things going for her.  She was located very close to our home, right across the street from what will eventually be our child’s elementary school, and had a wonderful maternal/grandmotherly feel to her.  Her husband works in the education industry, and her references seemed very passionate about the level of care she provided.  She also offered some additional flexibility that the others did not – like the ability to have her care for the baby on an “a la carte” basis as needed.  So ultimately, we decided to go with her.  Baby was registered and we were good to go.  The plan was to leave the baby with her a few times during my leave to get everyone accustomed to it, and then full-time once returning to work.

But once I delivered and had bonded with my son, I simply couldn’t bear the thought of leaving him at daycare.  I knew I would never leave him one second longer than I had to (there goes the plan of leaving him a few days during my leave to ease us both into it!)

There was and is absolutely nothing wrong with that daycare.  The family is wonderful.  The facilities are perfect.  Everything else checked out.  But I just began having visions of my son laying in a crib or being left alone while other children were tended to.  Crying in the other room.  Irrational thoughts, and I’m certain not warranted, but I couldn’t help it. 

Then I began paying closer attention to my sister’s and friends’ children who were in daycare.  It seems that they were always getting sick!  And in my sister’s case, the children are only in daycare a few hours a week.  I began to worry about my son coming home sick frequently and at such a young age (especially since I was choosing to space out his vaccinations).

As my remaining leave time dwindled, I began experiencing true anxiety at having to leave my son at all.  Almost mini panic attacks every time I even thought about going back to work and leaving him with someone else.  My mind began racing through all the horrible “What If” scenarios that could occur if I trusted someone other than myself or hubby to care for him.  Hubby assured me that those feelings would die down.  Sister assured me it was just hormones and would get better.  But it didn’t.  I felt horrible, guilty.  And I hadn’t (and still haven’t) gone back to work yet!

I decided I simply couldn’t do it.  I couldn’t go back to work and leave my son at such a young age.  At least not until he could walk, communicate.  At least not until he was bigger, sturdier.  At least not until I trusted someone as much as me to care for him… and fat chance of that happening any time soon.

This was a foreign feeling for me.  I had never once considered the option of staying home.  In fact, I was proudly adamant that I would NEVER stay home.  If I’m being honest, until now, I never had much respect for SAHMs.  Although I never spoke it, I felt that they were somehow lazy, too willing to use motherhood as an excuse to “opt out” because Corporate America was too difficult, too willing to rely on a husband to support them.  That would never be me.

I was instantly humbled.

Suddenly my financial independence, my identity as a working woman, my entire career – none of it mattered anymore.  Nothing could even come close to comparing to this tiny life relying on me for his every need.  I wanted to be there for every roll, every step, every word.  I wanted his memories to be of US.  Every fiber of my being was screaming at me to do the right thing and raise my own child.

We ran the figures.  It would be tight, but we could manage.  We reasoned that I could use the time to start my own business.  It would be an opportunity to pursue what I really wanted to do, both personally and professionally.  Perhaps if we wanted another child, we get started on that front immediately so as to better justify my time out of the work force.

But still, always, in the back of my mind was that niggling voice.  Is now, when you have a new life to support, really the right time to be quitting your job?  Are you being fiscally responsible?  Sure, you can do it, but what about lost retirement contributions and compounding?  What about future marketability?  What if hubby, heaven forbid, ever lost his job?  What about the career you’ve worked so long and hard for?

I didn’t, and still don’t, know the right answer.  But I knew I needed to have a back-up plan while we figured it out.  I had already decided I couldn’t, wouldn’t, use a daycare facility at this point.  I had exhausted all other options such as pursuing care by a local family member.  That left us with only one other option – a nanny.

At first glance, I had serious sticker shock.  Nannies ain’t cheap, especially in this neck of the woods!  But by now, I didn’t care about the cost.  What was best for our baby was really the only consideration.  As long as we could afford it, we would do it.  I figured we could bite the bullet on the cost for 1-2 years, or at whatever point I felt comfortable to begin putting my son into a group program (as I still do feel that socialization is very important). 

I began the long process of finding a fit for our family.  Posting the job, interviewing applicants, running background checks, finding CPR classes, installing nanny cams, obtaining Workers Comp insurance, reviewing Nanny Tax laws, etc, etc.  I’ll save this for another post, but I had no idea how difficult it would be to even find someone willing to work “on the books,” never mind legally documented to work in the United States!

Finally, we found someone who met most of our qualifications (I literally had a laundry list of requirements) and who we liked and felt comfortable with.  We made her an offer that has her coming in part-time during our leaves (more to get us, ME, comfortable with the situation), and then full-time once we are both back at work.  I’ve gathered every single piece of information I can from her, her references, etc.  I’ve spent almost three days with her already; watching, training, and trying to predict how I’m going to feel when I go back.

And we’re going to see how it goes.  That’s all we can do now.  Once I go back, I’m fortunate to know that my husband will be home for an additional 12 weeks.  “The Plan,” as it stands now, is to simply see if I can handle it during those 12 weeks.  If I can handle being away from my baby.  Handle the thought of trusting someone else to care for him.  Handle inevitably missing some of the firsts.  Handle the juggling act.  And then go from there.  If yes, we should be okay.  If no, well, then we can cross that bridge.

And yesterday, for the very first time, I forced myself to leave the baby alone with the nanny for a few hours.  I didn’t want to leave.  I kissed him so much he started fussing.  At just over 17 weeks, this was the first time I would ever be leaving him with someone other than husband or myself.  The nanny knew it, and she was wonderful – reassuring.  Calming. 

I left, drove down the street, and promptly called my husband to have him start watching the nanny cams and dictating to me what was happening as I drove to my first errand.  Okay, he said, she just put the baby into the carrier….  she is putting them into the stroller….  now she just put the leash on the dog… okay now they are leaving for a walk….  now i’ve lost all visibility, they are out in the world.  Out in the world!  No visibility!  I immediately panic and then calm myself down, focus on my errand (except there is no real focus on anything other than what is happening at home).

Right afterwards, I pull up the nanny cams myself.  Oh no!  I can’t see them!  I call my husband, worried.  I’m sure they’re just still out for their walk, he says.  I get nervous.

Now it’s been 90 minutes.  I still can’t see them.  My mind starts racing.  Ridiculous thoughts.  I know they’re crazy even as I’m thinking them.  What if she took him away in her car – kidnapped him?  What if she got hurt on the walk?  What if she didn’t latch the carrier onto the stroller correctly and it tipped over?  What if she couldn’t handle both the dog and the baby at once and the dog got run over?

My heart literally starts pounding and I have to tell myself to CALM. DOWN.  Now it’s been 100 minutes.  They should be home by now!  What’s going on!?  I frantically jump from one nanny cam to the other to the other.  Suddenly, I see the stroller in the foyer.  Waves of relief.  Hear the baby crying.  Hear the nanny calming him.  Relief.  Relief.  On cue, husband calls me.  He must know I’m scared…  or maybe he’s scared too?  They just got home, he says, I see her with the baby now.

So I survived Day 1.  It was hard.  Anxiety-ridden.  But I did it.  And I have to admit, I got a TON of errands done.

So I’m afraid I don’t yet have the answer for us.  I’ve ruled out daycare for now, but am still torn between using a nanny and becoming a SAHM.  I should point out two books I’ve read to try to help me make sense of the confusion I’m feeling:

  •  The Perfect Stranger by Lucy Kaylin discusses the complex relationships between mothers and nannies.  It is written from the perspective of a working mom, albeit a seemingly very high income earning working mom.  This book was fascinating and I could hardly put it down.  Instead of making me feel better about using a nanny, however, it pushed me in the other direction – and made me feel more and more like I should become a SAHM.  An interesting read with lots of personal stories and anecdotes.
  • The Feminine Mistake by Leslie Bennetts delves into the Working Mom vs. SAHM wars.  Also a fascinating read, it is one of the few books I’ve read (really, one of the few pieces I’ve read anywhere) that discusses the potential downfalls of choosing to stay at home.  While not promoting work as the necessarily best option, it does discuss some of the niggling fears I have of losing marketability, retirement savings, financial independence, etc.  I highly recommend this book for working mothers who are feeling guilt or anxiety as it has definitely helped me to better reconcile myself to this option.

So I suppose this post ends with a big TBD….  as we ultimately decide what child care route to go over the coming weeks.  Any others struggling with this who have come to a final decision?